She had school yesterday (her 3rd day of kindergarten), but I still tried to make her day as special as I could. She got to wear her new My Little Pony (current obsession) shirt with Rainbow Dash on it. I gave her Starbursts for breakfast (well, pre-breakfast, since we're cashing in on the $1.10 breakfasts at school). I sent cupcakes and flowers and a balloon to her school (judge me all you want, but my child is not spoiled by material things. So I went all out for her birthday). After school, we ran to the grocery store and then came home to make dinner together.
We made gumbo. Kimmy's been begging to try gumbo for months. She loves okra, and when she learned that it's a key ingredient in Tiana's dish in Princess and the Frog, she latched onto the idea of making it for dinner sometime. We got tons of fresh veggies from the farmers' market this weekend, including the okra mother lode, so we were all set for gumbo cookin'. I thought her birthday was the perfect occasion!
I love being a mom, and I know I'm a pretty good one. One thing I seriously struggle with, though, is active listening. I'm so exhausted in the evenings and overwhelmed with managing a routine, cleaning, getting everything ready for the next day, doing homework, keeping some semblance of a social life, and getting enough sleep, that I generally do a terrible job listening, being patient, sticking to one task at a time, and sitting down to spend relaxing time with my Kimmy-girl instead of bouncing around the house like a pinball. I catch myself saying, "Mmhmm. Oh, that's great," to many of the things Kimmy tells me (or tries to tell me) in the evenings. I have horrible mommy guilt over it, and I resent single parenting for making it my reality. I'm the only person Kimmy has to talk to, and I ruin it a lot by being so lacking in energy. I'm just spread so thin that there is no way I can hit the evening portion of our day with a full battery. I get really down about it.
So last night I put my phone down and spent some real quality time with my baby. We (mostly she) talked, and I listened. She took me by surprise several times throughout the evening! I was so astonished at how much she knows and has been learning lately. Even the way she forms sentences now...it's like she's a grown-up trapped in that little girly-girl frame.
While we were prepping our veggies for cooking, I was dicing an onion. When I moved on to the garlic, Kimmy said, "I already know what that knife move is called, Mommy." I said, "Oh, you do? What?" "Mincing." I literally had no clue she knew that! She said she learned it from Princess and the Frog when Prince Naveen is mincing mushrooms. And then she helped me mince.
Next, she started munching on a green pepper--a favorite snack of my brother's when he was Kimmy's age. She said she loved it, and I told her she was awesome and brave to always try new foods.
The evening was interspersed with random friends and family members calling and sending messages to wish her a happy birthday like Nana and Papple and Nate and Brice, but we still got to talk to each other a lot. Probably my favorite part was when we were sitting at the bar together just digging into our bowls of gumbo when she finally opened up to me about how school was going. I've barely heard a peep about school since the first day, and it had me kind of worried.
We had a nice heart to heart about her class and teacher, her new best friend Averi who sits at the table next to her, how it takes time to learn new names and make new friends, how her school is pretty big compared to my grade school and how I think she's showing a lot of courage by not being intimidated by being around so many people. She told me her favorite part of school is that she's going to learn to read, and her least favorite part is not having nap time. (Cue the mommy guilt for her having to go to Latch-Key before and after school while her momma goes to work, which makes for 10-hour days.)
We finished up our evening with blackberries sprinkled with sugar, and I got my 5-year-old sidekick into bed only about a half hour late.
Kimmy's final thought before bed? "I have a question. What if we could swim in clouds?" She might be growing up quickly, but that mind of hers is still wild, innocent, free, and full of dreams. I love her so.
Parenting never feels better than when you're connected with your kiddo without distractions. My favorite ways to get there with Kimmy are camping, vacationing, and cooking. I need to make a point of it more often! But what would parenting be without lots of mini failures, right? I need grace. Lots and lots of grace. We've made it to age 5 with smiles on our faces, and we can make it much farther!
I love you, Kimmy Jarae-jee Jay-jee Jarae.